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Google+ or Minus? The Question Remains

by Oct 16, 2011, 4:45 am ET

Do you have a Google+ account? Forty million people do, according to Google CEO Larry Page. But are you using it? That’s a very different question. Metrics, trends, and public opinion are all showing that Google’s new social network simply hasn’t caught on.

Let’s look at the numbers. Data analytics company Chitika has shown that, after a huge increase in traffic when Google+ went public on September 20, traffic has since dropped back down to the same level as when the service was available only by invitation. This means that a lot of people activated their account, which was particularly easy for Gmail users, but haven’t gone back to the site since.

Perhaps most telling: Google’s own management team barely uses the service. Mashable’s Ben Parr wrote a brilliant piece breaking down the involvement of Google’s senior leadership. In the first three months of Google+’s existence, CEO Page had only posted seven times; co-founder Sergey Brin had posted 12. Eleven executives, including executive chairman Eric Schmidt, hadn’t posted anything at all. By contrast, Mark Zuckerberg is very active on Facebook and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has tweeted thousands of times. Schmidt finally broke his Google+ silence by posting about Steve Jobs’ death, 107 days after the service launched.

An informal Twitter poll from ReadWriteWeb asked followers why they weren’t using Google+. Some people responded that their friends weren’t on it, which seems to be a cyclical argument. Others echoed Romit Mehta, who responded, “Twitter is good for ‘fast, real time’ and facebook is where my friends and family are. G+ solves no problem.”

A Google search of “I love Google Plus” returns 207,000 results. “I like Google Plus” gets 1.18 million results. “I don’t like Google Plus” returns 300,000 results, while “I hate Google Plus” returns 20,700 results. My conclusion? While more than a million people like the service, more people don’t like it than love it. And 10,000 people hate it. (These ratios were about the same when I searched for “Google+” instead of “Google Plus.”)

How about mobile? Google+ does indeed come as an iPhone app. The latest version, released October 4, has only 39 votes (not much interest) and a rating of three stars out of five (not much love). One reviewer wrote, “Is it really THAT hard for a HUGE company like Google to make an iPad-native version?” Google seems to be missing opportunities at every turn.

Here’s my personal experience with Google+: I have 10 “friends” in different circles. Since I joined on July 9 (three weeks after launch, thank you), my stream has a total of six posts by four people. One of those posts is a notification that a friend changed her profile photo. These are people who regularly update their Facebook, Twitter, or both. They’re just not using Google+.

I recommend you spend an hour a day on social media, which includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Is Google+ currently worth that commitment? I have to say no. Will it ever be? That’s the 64-billion-dollar question.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Steve Guine

    You make some good points, but I would not be so quick to count out Google+ just yet.

    I think that social networking for companies like Google and MS is a matter of playing to their strengths rather than copying another’s playbook/business plan.

    When Google gets its act together, FB, LI and T will take notice.

  • Brad Zirulnik

    What if Page, Brin and Schmidt were using it? Would that really change things? I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but if their use was way up, how would this conversation change?

  • Brian Kevin Johnston

    Thanks Jody for your insights… I like/agree with your 1HR a day on SM. Best to ALL/Happy Monday!!!

  • Tyler Brown

    I appreciate your analysis on this, but I’m afraid I don’t agree on some of your points. Doing a google search for phrases is not a great way of doing opinion research, as it doesn’t take an exhaustive and nuanced approach to the ways in which people may express their feelings towards the service.

    As far as Google’s brass, looking at their public shares does not necessarily say much, as one of the main benefits of G+ is that you can effectively manage permissions. There’s no way to tell to what degree Page, Brin, et al are sharing with their colleagues, friends, and family.

    Ultimately, though, you may be right as far as branding is concerned. I’m not qualified to comment on its use as such, but I’m inclined to agree with you here. For me, personally, I’ve found it a much more enjoyable sharing/interaction experience than Facebook on many levels, and I’m not sure it should yet be written off.

  • Louis Welcomme

    I do use the Google+ icon when I have read a good article but I currently very rarely post directly to Google + – especially when I have to manage LinkedIn and Twitter for Colleague Recruitment Software.

    As always best advice to all businesses, as well as recruiters, is to ensure you know your objectives, target audience and metrics in order to use your time most effectively.

    @ColleagueRS –
    @LouisWelcomme –

  • Chris Brablc

    My problem with Google + right now is the lack of compatibility with third party social media aggregators such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.

    If they enabled me to view feeds and post to Google + from there I would use it more often.

    Nice article!

    Chris Brablc